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tv   Bringing Brooke Home  MSNBC  January 30, 2016 12:00am-1:01am PST

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we kept thinking, this just can't happen. this is brooke. >> she was pretty, popular. >> she made people feel better about themselves. >> an anchor in her close-knit family. >> this is my home! yay! >> then one morning, this loving, reliable college student just vanished. >> it just wasn't like her, you know? >> no witnesses, no leads, really no clues at all. just her empty flip flops in a deserted parking lot. >> this was not a runaway. something bad had happened. >> her family had faith somehow,
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some day brooke would come back home. >> maybe someone has her captive and they will decide just to let her go. >> months later, more than 1,000 miles away, a college student is rescued, running from a kidnapper. >> she said he's got a knife, he said he's going to kill me. >> could this lead to brooke coming home? >> this isn't the first time he's done this. >> they couldn't imagine what it would take to find the answer. >> i want to know where she is. >> bringing brooke home. thanks for joining us. i'm ann curry. when the young woman at the heart of this story disappeared, her family knew right away that something had to be wrong. she was always punctual. she would never just take off without calling. her family's determination to find her and grace under pressure touched even veteran police officers. but still, no one would guess how far solving this case would take them.
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here's kate snow. >> some images are eternal, timeless. one moment the future seems immeasurable, the possibilities endless, but in an instant, you can be left with only memories to hold till the end of time. brooke wilberger lived as if she had all of the time in the world to grow up, to marry, to create a close-knit family like her own parents had. >> we have six children and brooke is number five. >> always wanted to have a big family? >> we ended up with one. >> cammy wilberger and her husband, greg, raised their children near beautiful eugene, oregon, a family that included brooke's older brother, bryce, and sister, stephanie. >> we used to have so much fun
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dressing her up. she was kind of like our little toy, if you will. >> i know, let's dress up brooke, right? >> yeah. she was just fun. >> little brooke didn't speak until she was 4 and even then could be a bit hard to understand. but as brooke grew, her natural talents spoke loudly. she loved animals and 4-h, played basketball and ran track. >> she was good. she was better than most of the rest of us at the sports that we played. >> she snowboarded on slopes around oregon. as her little sister jessica remembers, took pride in being scrappy on the soccer field. >> she came home from soccer and she kind of had a black eye and my brother asked what happened. she kind of laughed and said, i got in a fight. and he said, no, you don't, brooke, you don't get in fights. she said, you're right, i got hit in soccer practice but isn't it so cool? >> brooke was also an honor student at elmira high, who loved to bake, scrapbook, and see the sights on the west coast.
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>> this is my home, yay. >> she could be seriously silly -- >> this is my crib, you know. >> or stylish, happy to shop for shoes or fashion. she was reliable, thoughtful, popular, and pretty, inside and out. >> she made people feel better about themselves. >> people wanted to be with her? >> yeah. >> and she was nice. she was intelligent and beautiful but she was also really nice. >> the minute she turned 16, when dad's rules allowed her to start dating, she knew she wanted her childhood friend, justin, to be her boyfriend. and when they graduate friday high school, brooke decided to follow him to brigham young university in utah. >> she just really wanted to experience life outside of our community and kind of branch out. >> the girl who had grown up saying words a little funny decided to study speech pathology. brooke loved her new friends and byu, but returned home her
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freshman year for thanksgiving to spend time with her family and shop. >> we returned to meier & frank before it became macy's. and she had really liked this watch. and it was kind of a dressy watch and she was pretty classy in the things that she close to wear. >> so she sees it in the case and she mentions it to you? >> yeah. she says, i really like that watch, mom. >> easy christmas present. >> it was. >> six months later in the spring, her freshman year was history. brooke returned home to oregon. she had a summer job in corvallis, about 30 miles from home, working at the oak park apartments, managed by her sister stephanie and stephanie's husband. and on monday, may 24th, 2004, she left the house where her sister jessica was getting ready for another day of seventh grade. >> she was kind of in a rush and walked out the door and left and about five minutes later she walked back in and she just yelled through the door, i love you.
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and walked out. and that was the last time i talked to her. >> by 9:00 a.m., brooke was at the apartments and an hour later hard at work. >> i could see through our apartment to the back window facing our patio and brooke was bending over filling up a bucket of water and that was the last time i saw her. >> at what point did you realize that she wasn't out there anymore? >> not until probably 1:00. i had fixed lunch for my children and for her, and she hadn't shown up. >> what starts going through your head when she doesn't come in for lunch? >> it's a large complex. there's over 100 apartments. so i wasn't like immediately worried because i thought she could be cleaning, you know, a laundry room somewhere. i even said something like, well, let's take out the search party. tongue in cheek and took my little kids out with me and we started just walking around, looking to see if we could see her, tell her that lunch was ready. >> you're not in a full-blown panic at this point? >> no. no. >> but before long, stephanie would come upon these.
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near a lamppost brooke had been cleaning, her flip-flops were on the pavement. >> the little piece of plastic that goes between your toe was ripped out on one and there were muddy toe prints sliding down the actual sole of the shoe so it was clear she was trying to stay put and stay grounded when she lost her shoes. >> you knew that right then? >> immediately. yeah. >> still, though, no panic, no cries for help for a couple of hours until 3:07 when stephanie's husband placed a very calm call to 911. >> 911, what is your emergency? >> yeah, i've got somebody that is missing, a worker of mine we can't seem to find. >> missing from where? >> i'm a manager of oak park apartments and this worker actually happens to be my sister-in-law. she's 19. >> when is the last time anybody saw her? >> around 10:30. >> where had brooke wilberger gone?
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why couldn't anyone find her? brooke's mom was about to learn of her daughter's disappearance in a phone call with one of her sons. >> i said, where is brooke? and he said, we don't know. i said, what do you mean you don't know? he goes, we don't know where she is. i said, spence, don't tease me. what are you talking about? and he said, no, seriously, mom. we can't find her. and right then, i just had this chill go through my whole body. coming up, a whole community turns out to search for brooke while the police start their investigation by focusing on her family. >> stephanie was just grilled about, you know, where was she? did you do it? >> when "bringing brooke home" continues.
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on a sunny, spring day in corvallis, oregon, the clock was ticking. 19-year-old brooke wilberger had disappeared about 10:30 a.m. as she worked, cleaning lampposts in the parking lot of the oak park apartments. just a block away from the bustling campus of oregon state university. at 1:00 p.m., her sister stephanie got worried when brooke didn't show up for lunch. >> it just wasn't like her, you know. she was always on time. >> by 3:00, stephanie's husband called police. >> we've looked everywhere we could think to look for her here. >> word was spreading among brooke's five siblings. their sweet by feisty little sister had disappeared. >> when did they call you, bryce? >> it was mid afternoon sometime. i think we knew something was seriously wrong when the comment was, we can't find brooke. it didn't take anything longer than that. >> bryce picked up his mother, who was trying not to panic.
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>> a lot of people talk about that maternal feeling that you sometimes get inside. did you get a feeling? >> i just kept thinking, you know, maybe she met up with one of her friends that was going to osu. no, brooke wouldn't do that. it's not brooke. >> by late in the afternoon with brooke now missing for hours, cell phones started buzzing. >> i was sitting at my son's tee ball game and i got a phone call from one of our patrol lieutenants at the time who said, john, we have a missing girl. >> captain jonathan sassaman and lieutenant tim brewer of the corvallis police department were about to begin a journey unlike anything they had ever experienced. >> i asked him, what do you think? is this real? he had a natural gut instinct that this was not a walk away, not a runaway, that something bad had happened. >> when he arrived at the apartments, he was struck by how few clues he had to work with. >> it is a parking lot with a
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pair of flip-flops and a bucket with soap and some water under a lamppost. >> also left behind, brooke's wallet, purse, cell phone, and car. nobody, it seemed, saw anything but someone heard something about 10:30 that morning, a blood curdling scream. the evidence pointed to an abduction, but investigators started with questions for the people closest to the victim. first question, where was brooke's boyfriend, justin? it turned out he was serving a two-year mission for the mormon church 4,000 miles away in venezuela. next, brooke's family. >> we needed to go through, is the family a suspect? and we had to get that work done and we had investigators doing that. >> stephanie was just grilled about, you know, where was she? why don't you know where she was? and did you do it? >> that had to be awful. >> it was awful. >> it was --
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>> it is awful. >> it was terrible. we made the decision that we as a family, we would do anything to get brooke back, whatever the police asked us to do, we will do it. if they suspect us, that's okay. we don't care. we want to find brooke. >> and soon a community came together. within hours of brooke's disappearance, dozens, then hundreds of people showed up, many from the wilberger's church. others, concerned citizens and cops. >> i suppose she could be anywhere. we just have to look everywhere. >> they came in droves that first evening and every day after with one goal, find brooke. >> by golly, come hell or high water, we are going to find her. >> but for detectives, the sheer number of searchers presented a challenge. >> as an investigator responsible for this, we're looking at, is our bad guy here? it's not uncommon for people who commit the crime to circle right back around, be present, learn, see what's going on.
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>> by this time, the fbi had also entered the investigation. supervisory special agent joe boyers' first question, had brooke been taken by someone who lived at the apartment complex? and could that person be among the tens of thousands of oregon state students who would soon be leaving town for the summer? agent boyer asked fbi profilers for help. >> they asked us, do you have a crime scene? no, we don't, other than flip-flops in a parking lot. do you have any witnesses? no, we don't. do you have a vehicle description? no, we don't. do you have a body? no, we don't. they said, frankly, there's very little we could do for you at this point. >> with so little evidence, investigators found themselves thinking back to another crime, a crime many here in corvallis barely recall. on another day in may, nearly 30 years to the day and one mile away from where brooke disappeared, a young oregon state student vanished. it wasn't until her body was
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discovered and her killer caught that people here realized this town had been visited by one of america's most notorious serial killers, ted bundy. authorities in corvallis wondered if there was now another sexual predator bold enough to abduct a young woman in broad daylight. >> it was a rough day for the sex offenders in our county because there was a team who went out and put their finger on every single one of them. >> how many sex offenders are there in this area? >> i think that was something that was very startling to realize is how many there actually were. >> when police told brooke's family there may be 2,000 sex offenders in the area, they were horrified. >> when they tried -- when they get into details and i just have to lay back on the bed because i would become nauseated. you know, just the whole trauma of it was too much. >> it just took a couple days, i think, to sink in that something bad had happened and that she was really gone.
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>> there seemed to be little question, brooke was gone and in grave danger. the family took to the airwaves. her father, greg -- >> if anyone has seen brooke at all, if they would just please call in. >> tips poured in to police hotlines. >> we had dozens and dozens of brooke wilberger sightings in practically every state. >> everybody who went out for a walk in following days who saw someone who looked out of place called us up. >> the search expanded daily. at times it seemed the whole state of oregon was pitching in to find brooke. >> i have daughters this age and i want to help. >> more search teams, dozens of square miles. >> what is the geography like around here? where could someone have taken brooke? >> limitless. we're ten miles from interstate 5. we have a north-south highway running right through corvallis. we have an east-west highway running through corvallis. you could drive five miles from corvallis and be in a very
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remote area. >> in the deep woods? >> absolutely. >> that's right. >> but despite the odds, within days investigators were hot on someone's trail. coming up, a police search turns up a terrifying checklist and investigators wonder if it's the lead they have been waiting for. >> either someone is planning a very heinous mutilation, sexual assault crime and murder or it's a fantasy. >> when "bringing brooke home" continues.
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nearly a week into the head-spinning hunt for their daughter and sister, brooke wilberger's family somehow kept their unfailing optimism afloat. did you think she was alive somewhere? >> yes. i think we -- that was the overwhelming feeling that we felt, and i think that's why the focus was, find brooke. it's what drove us. we know the statistics, but this is our family. this is brooke. she's got to be there. >> and there was reason to hope. >> we don't have happy endings like this all that often. >> i know. >> in that summer, 2004, the story of elizabeth smart was still fresh. she was the 14-year-old snatched from her bedroom in utah, held captive by a deranged street preacher then amazingly, after nine months, returned to her family alive. >> i would think, maybe somebody just has her captive and they will just decide to let her go one day.
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>> a family friend put the wilbergers in touch with elizabeth's uncle. was it comforting? >> it was comforting. he was very positive, of course, because of their experience and he said, never give up hope. just keep thinking positive. >> and she came home. >> right. right. and so i was like, you know, i don't know how, i don't know the circumstances, but i cannot give up. >> and while the search continued, what seemed to be a lead emerged. >> that burglary pointed them to this man, sung koo kim. >> the name sung koo kim came to the attention of investigators less than a week after brooke vanished. kim was a reclusive 30-year-old with a degree in genetics and biology who still lived with his parents in this home 80 miles from corvallis in a suburb of portland. he spent much of his time online trading stocks. just weeks before, a search of kim's home turned up thousands of pairs of women's underwear,
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stolen from college dorms throughout the area. burglary charges had been filed and he would soon be charged with stealing underwear from a dorm at oregon state university, just blocks from where brooke was abducted. police had an investigative theory based on their experience in other cases. >> when you start making steps to entering other buildings and dormitories and going and stealing other people's property, being underwear, that's a progression. >> meaning what? that he could then do something violent? >> there's going to be step two, step three, and contacting somebody next and ultimately abducting somebody. >> then, just five days after brooke's disappearance, another search in a dramatic middle-of-the-night raid captured on individual crow tape taken by police, an oregon state police s.w.a.t. team blew open the front door of the home that kim shared with his parents. 15 officers stormed inside to serve a search warrant looking for physical evidence.
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hair, body fluid, or more, evidence of kim's possible involvement in brooke's disappearance. they found no physical evidence but what they did discover drew their attention. on kim's computer, investigators found tens of thousands of photos and thousands more videos, what police termed a vast collection of pornographic images, including a small number of staged scenes depicting tortured, raped, and mutilated women. then there was this, a document labeled osu, as in oregon state university. it read like a how-to guide for committing a sex crime, it included a list of supplies. hood, glasses, video, and digital cameras. >> it's more than just a checklist. either someone is planning a very heinous mutilation, sexual assault crime and murder, or it's a fantasy. but either way it's extremely important to us and our
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investigation and very startling. >> as detectives dug deeper, they discovered this -- while kim was stealing underwear from dorms and laundry rooms, he had also developed a bizarre fetish for collecting lint from clothes dryers. in kim's home they discovered a bag of some of that lint labeled with the name of an oregon state university swim team member. like brooke wilberger, she was young, blond, blue-eyed and she used to hang out a lot with other swimmers in corvallis, right here at the oak park apartments. so i'm imagining red flags are going off all over the place when you start getting this information. >> from our perspective, every red flag went off that we had to spend some energy looking at sung koo kim. >> the media pounced. >> any comment about being a person of interest in corvallis? >> no comment. >> sung koo kim's life was examined from every angle. headlines blair blared his new
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nickname, the panty thief. soon brooke wilberger's family heard news reports that kim, on the day of brooke's disappearance had purchased cinder blocks. >> my thought was, maybe if he were the person and if he took brooke, then he might have tied her to bricks and dropped her in a river. >> those reports about kim buying bricks were never substantiated. his besieged family attempted to clear his name any way they could. >> he's not related to this disappearance of girl. everybody knows. >> despite all of the suspicion, was it possible that sung koo kim really was innocent? coming up, new information about the person of interest in brooke's disappearance. >> put all three of those together, that's an iron clad alibi. >> where would the investigation lead? when "bringing brooke home"
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now back to "bringing brooke home." nearly two weeks after brooke wilberger disappeared while working outside of these apartments in corvallis, oregon -- >> search teams spend a twelfth day surveying acres of land. >> -- the search was winding down. the official end would soon come. members of brooke's family expressed their gratitude. >> you've given up so much to help and i was thinking yesterday, brooke would be saying, they didn't even know me. >> while detectives were still looking at sung koo kim as a person of interest, at least one of brooke's siblings took one look and thought, no way. >> i personally didn't think he had anything to do with it. i just looked at him and thought she could get away from him.
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he didn't look very threatening to me. >> and soon more reason surfaced to cast doubt on the idea that kim was involved in brooke's disappearance. >> he offers an alibi. >> well, offering an alibi and us being able to validate that alibi are two different things. >> but kim's alibi for the day of brooke's disappearance consisted of not just one but three pieces of evidence. put together, they showed kim could not have been in corvallis at 10:30 a.m. when the kidnapping occurred. first, these records show an online purchase of 500 shares of stock with ameritrade executed on kim's computer 75 miles from the crime scene at 11:14 a.m. pacific. next, a witness came forward saying kim answered a phone call at the family home at 12:10 p.m. and, finally, there was a videotape showing kim and his father, entering an electronic store in portland, oregon, at 12:42 p.m. and a receipt showing
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a purchase at the same store at 1:11 p.m. >> put all three of those together, that's an ironclad alibi. >> steve went was one of kim's attorney. >> prosecutors should look at that and say this is a case we simply cannot charge. we have the wrong guy. >> did they say that? >> they didn't. in fact, they went public, naming sung koo kim as a person of interest in the wilberger investigation. >> investigators insisted it was a lead they had to follow. >> there were moments when we were challenging each other with how much time do we spend here versus spend it over there. >> looking for someone else? >> we didn't want to chase the red herring with 100% of our resources. it was the healthiest thing for the investigation. it made sure nothing fell through the cracks. >> it was healthy dissension. we were all working together to try to figure out how to solve this case.
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>> at what point do you start thinking, maybe it's not sung koo kim? >> i don't know that we were at a point where we thought it was sung koo kim. we felt it was our job to investigate that, to see where it led us. >> any comment about being a person of interest? >> it took months but authorities officially cleared kim. kim's family filed a lawsuit claiming excessive use of force in that night raid. the state of oregon, without admitting any wrongdoing, eventually settled with the family, paying them more than $330,000. >> there was a lot of pressure to try and save this young woman. undoubtedly, the officers were hoping that they could find her and hoping that they could find her alive, but they really didn't have many facts here. and the search was done in aggressive, i think quite radical fashion. >> kim was eventually convicted of burglary in connection with his panty stealing and given what many considered a harsh sentence, 11 years in prison,
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where he still is today. the summer of 2004 wore on and investigators in the wilberger case seem to be back at square one. members of the fbi and the corvallis police department worked hard but leads were wearing thin. >> the weeks turn into a month, two months, three months. how frustrating is it to not have more of a lead? >> it was extraordinarily stressful. you had a community looking for answers. you had a community that was scared. was there somebody else out there who is going to be the next victim? where is it going to occur? and they're looking for us to solve that. >> it's your job to tell them. >> they're looking for us to provide a degree of assurance we can't give. we can tell them we're giving it everything we've got. we brought in every resource possible for this case, but they're looking for an assurance that's difficult to give. that's just one element. we've going to a family element.
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and we have got a family in tremenus pain. and they are hurting. and they are doing everything they can to support us, to encourage us, to inspire the investigators to not give up. >> in what sense? >> they didn't turn. they never became an adversary. they were a partner with us and it was incredible. >> but the wilbergers were feeling the strain as well. in september, three months after brooke's disappearance, it was time to return to school. jessica was heading into eighth grade. >> i always thought about it. there were days i would get up in the morning and would think, i don't want to do this today. but i would put a smile on my face and go to school and just worry about school. >> their mother would do the same, returning to her job as a third grade teacher. >> how did you go back to school? how did you walk in the classroom and teach little third graders? >> i wasn't sure if i could do it but it actually became very therapeutic. because when i walked through
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that school door, i was mrs. wilberger and it gives you the opportunity to love little children and to be concerned about their needs and so it was really a good therapy for me. it kept my mind busy on other things. >> you almost block it out. you create enough that's going on outside of it that you don't think about it. >> you don't have to think about it. >> you try. >> you try not to. that's probably -- i think it's -- so you're sitting at a church bench. instead of moving forward or back, you're sliding to one side or the other. it's still there. it's something that you live with and that you -- it's part of you, but you try to focus on something else that at least allows you to kind of calm your mind to some degree. it doesn't work very well, but, i mean, that's what you had to do. >> the wilbergers didn't know it but before the holidays would arrive in 2004, there would finally be a legitimate break in the case of the abduction of their daughter, brooke.
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coming up, halfway across the country, a college student runs screaming from a kidnapper. >> i told her, get in the car. that i wouldn't let anybody hurt her. >> a lot of people didn't stop. >> no, nobody stopped. >> would one woman's quick thinking help bring brooke home?
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six months after brooke wilberger's disappearance, police in corvallis, oregon, were frustrated. her family's hopes were fading. slim, yet steadfast. >> what was that thanksgiving like around that table? >> we still had a good time. just because we love each other and we still are pretty hopeful.
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i think when we get together, for myself, brings a lot of joy and a lot of comfort. and so even though we missed brooke, there was -- there was just comfort in being together. >> police announced the reward had been doubled, hoping more money would loosen lips and shake out new leads but even investigators felt trapped as if it were groundhog day. >> we don't have a suspect. we don't have any clear leads. >> every press conference, simply another chance to make the same plea -- help us find brooke. >> the investigation had kind of gotten to a point where they were still plugging away, following up on tips, still talking to people, still turning over rock, still searching. and we were, at that point, just hoping for something to break. >> just waiting? >> it was difficult. >> when you don't have that active, that high-end lead, the thing that gets your adrenaline going and you're investigating a case via elimination of all these other tips and you're just sitting there, getting to them, it's frustrating for the team.
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it can be discouraging. >> how hard is it to face the family with that? >> very hard. you want to be able to give the family answers. >> and then that very week, the last week of november 2004, it happened. nearly 1,400 miles away in new mexico, a place aptly known as the land of enchantment, the break that they had been praying for. in albuquerque, in one of the city's tougher neighborhoods, a waitress named dara finks, was driving her suv down the street with her three daughters just after dusk when they saw a young woman. >> we were sitting at the light, and the girl comes running across the street and my daughter in the front seat says that she doesn't have any clothes on. >> that's kind of weird, you see a naked woman running across the street. >> yes. we were watching her run into the restaurant. my daughter was ready to jump out the car. i'm like, no, no, no.
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wait. we'll go over there and see what's going on. >> it was clear, she says, the young woman was in trouble, frantically trying to get help from someone inside the restaurant across the street. >> no one helped her because we pulled around there and my daughter got out of the car and met her at the door and brought her over to the car. >> to your car? >> and that's when she said, he's got a knife. he's trying to kill me. >> the woman said she had been kidnapped but had escaped. >> i told her, get in the car, lock the door, that i wouldn't let anybody hurt her. >> how scared were you? >> my tire iron is in the front seat of the car. my kids are in the car. i'm not going to let anybody hurt us. >> but then the young woman saw something back out in the street that made her scream. he was back. the man hocked napped her was looking for her. >> she sees him. she pointed at him. he was sitting at the light. >> the person that kidnapped her? >> that kidnapped her. >> the man with the knife had come to find her. dara called 911. she described the man, his red
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compact car. within minutes, police were there. >> a lot of people wouldn't have stopped. a lot of people didn't stop. >> no, nobody stopped. >> there was a lot of traffic. >> they wouldn't even help her at the restaurant. she was in the restaurant, at the counter, talking to someone. >> who was this young woman? blond, blue-eyed, abducted on her neck what she said was a mark from her kidnapper's knife. >> she was a college student. not from oregon but from russia. and the story this 22-year-old told officers was pretty incredible. she was walking home from work down this street, near the university of new mexico campus. she noticed a small, red car parked near the curb and a man standing next to it, but she didn't think much of it. walked right past. a few steps later she felt someone grab her from behind and hold a knife to her throat. inside the car, she was sexually assaulted and then her abductor stopped at these apartments, tied her up with her own shoe
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laces and went inside. incredibly, the woman was able to wriggle free, left the shoelaces lying in the parking lot and ran into the street with no clothes on, where she was rescued by dara finks. >> what made you want to help? what made you want to stop? >> my upbringing, the way we were raised, i feel god put me here for a reason, to help that girl because he knew we would help her. >> it was gutsy as hell. i think she's a hero, dara is the hero that night. >> theresa watley is the prosecutor who would handle the case for the district attorney's office. >> had they not been there, he would have picked her up again. >> he was waiting. he was lurking right there. there was no question what he was waiting for. >> but though the victim was now safe, her attacker was still on the loose. the young woman gave an incredibly detailed description of the man and of his car. >> she described the car seats down to the detail. she described the tinted windows. she described the fact that the
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car was two-door, that it was red. >> and the victim remembered something else, a small, stuffed animal on the car side window. enter albuquerque police officer ed taylor. he showed up at the scene, ready to help track down the bad guy. first stop, the apartments where the victim escaped from her kidnapper. >> so you go to the door of the apartment. who answers? >> it's a female. but we went inside the apartment and right off the bat, you could tell she was not going to be helpful at all. >> not cooperative? >> not cooperative. she did tell us that she knew him as joe and he spoke spanish and that was about it. >> the name joe, he spoke spanish, would it be enough to find him? and four states away, as you're about to see, would it be enough to help find brooke? coming up, police track down a suspect in the new mexico kidnapping case and start to speculate about his m.o. >> this is not the first time he's done this.
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you don't start grabbing people in broad daylight when you're almost 40. >> was it possible this wasn't his first abduction? when "bringing brooke home" continues.
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on a november night in 2004, albuquerque police were on a manhunt. a man had kidnapped a 22-year-old student off the street and sexually assaulted her. but when he carelessly tied her up and left her in his car in this apartment parking lot, she bolted, run naked into traffic and, thankfully, been rescued by this woman. >> that could be my daughter. she's a human being. she did not deserve to be running down the road with no clothes on. >> now albuquerque police officer ed taylor was among those looking for a suspect, a white male with a shaved head wearing a cap.
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police learned from a woman who lived in the apartments where the victim escaped that the man's name was joe, that he spoke spanish. she would say no more. >> i went back to the substation. i spoke to my supervisor. i told him, i believe if i went by myself, she will tell me more information. >> why? why did you have that feeling? >> i thought i had a connection with her. so i returned to the location and i told her, i said, this is what is going on. this is what happened. basically god forbid something like this were to happen to you or somebody you know, and she reluctantly ended up telling me you might be able to locate the vehicle behind the restaurant just south of gibson. >> riding solo, officer taylor followed the woman's directions and parked right here on this dead-end street was a red, two-door honda with a stuffed animal stuck to the window. >> so i waited a little bit and a few minutes later i noticed three individuals walking out of that white house and walking towards me. i called out to them as joe. i said, "joe," and he
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acknowledged me. and as he got closer, i said, is this your vehicle? he said yes. i had him turn around and i placed him into custody. >> did you find anything on him? >> i find a glass pipe used to smoke crack cocaine and a small knife. >> did he ever ask you why he was under arrest? >> no, didn't say anything. i think he knew he was caught. >> caught was this man, joel patrick courtney, soon identified by his victim and arrested on criminal sexual penetration, kidnapping and aggravated battery. joel courtney was 38 years old. he lived in this albuquerque suburb, rio rancho in this home with his wife and three young children. he had worked as a mechanic and fisherman and had worked all over the united states. a fluent spanish speaker, he also lived in mexico. but the man who appeared in family photos as the ever-smiling attentive father
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also had a dark side. six months before, his wife had taken out a restraining order against him, reporting he had choked her. >> the first time i saw him, i remember thinking it was as strong a reaction that i had had to richard ramirez. >> ramirez is the notorious night stalker, convicted of murdering more than a dozen people in the 1980s, now awaiting execution on california's death row. prosecutor theresa watley once crossed paths with ramirez in the courtroom. >> he actually made the hair on my arms stand up because he was so evil. the only other person that has done that to me was joel courtney. >> when you first read the reports about this case, what went through your mind as a prosecutor? >> that this is not the first time he had done this. you don't start grabbing people in broad daylight off the street and grab them in your car when you're almost 40. that's not the way the criminal mind works. >> the new mexico prosecutor didn't know yet how right she was. and back in oregon, the
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wilberger family knew nothing yet of these developments as they faced the holidays still hoping brooke would walk through the door and take her place on the stairs for the family's annual christmas pageant and pictures. >> smile, angels. >> that's exactly what we kept thinking. this can't happen. this just can't happen. this is brooke, you know, she's too full of life. she's too dynamic and too much a part of us. i've got to keep hoping. and i've got to keep thinking positive. >> this is my home, yay. >> where was brooke? six months had passed. was she still alive somehow, somewhere? her sister stephanie was dealing with a lot of guilt. brooke was working for her when she disappeared. >> i was driving somewhere and just reflecting on where we were so far and i remember thinking, gosh, i wonder what it will be like when i don't think about this every day?
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what could i have done differently? or what if this little thing had changed? >> but something was finally about to change. the quick thinking that led to joel courtney's capture in new mexico was about to lead to more questions, and investigators would soon want to know if this father of three, now charged in a daring abduction, could also be the man who took brooke. coming up, it was not just police asking questions about brooke's case. so was the suspect's own sister. >> there were some similarities. >> so you thought to yourself -- >> could it be? it was unthinkable. >> when "bringing brooke home" continues.
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joel patrick courtney was sitting in jail in albuquerque. it was december 2004. the married father of three was facing decades in prison if convicted of kidnapping, sexual assault, and battery charges. he had been caught carrying a knife and a crack pipe hours after a university of new mexico student said joel courtney
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abducted her near campus and sexually assaulted her. miraculously, she had escaped. >> this is an incredibly brazen crime. he abducts her in broad daylight. 6:45, it's just about dark. that's either incredibly stupid or insane. >> no, it's experienced. he knows what he's doing. he's done it before. he knows how to make it happen. he picked his spot really well. it's a very quiet street. it was dinnertime. as awful as it sounds, it's a smart move for what he's trying to do. >> but it didn't work and with joel courtney safely in custody, albuquerque police begin a routine background check on their suspect. they found that in addition to new mexico, he had lived in several states, alaska, florida and oregon. and a detective noticed that nearly a year before, in january 2004, in coastal lincoln county, oregon, courtney had been pulled over by a state trooper and charged with driving under the influence.
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but courtney had failed to appear in court, so a warrant had been issued for his arrest. and that's when an albuquerque detective did something he didn't have to do. he decided to dig deeper. picked up the phone and made a call to oregon. that would lead to a long-awaited break in the case of brooke wilberger. >> he calls up lincoln county sheriff's department and gets a detective. what do you know about this case? this is what he did in new mexico and he's relaying the circumstances. and the lincoln county detective, having heard about brooke's case -- >> because everyone here has heard about brooke's case. >> -- heard about it says to him, you need to call corvallis police department. it's that simple. and he does. >> did somebody yell out over the -- oh, my god? >> there was an element of cautious optimism with, this sounds really good but you can't jump in with both feet and just go crazy because we've been down
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that road so many times. >> as investigators began checking out this new lead on joel courtney, charged four states away with abducting a blond, blue-eyed college coed, a call went out to brooke wilberger's family. they had waited more than six months for news, any news, about their daughter's disappearance. now there was a man in custody who they thought might be able to reunite them with their daughter, just as elizabeth smart had been returned to her family. >> what are you thinking when you hear this? >> actually, i had prayed so faithfully all fall that whoever had done this would make a mistake. and when i heard the news, i thought, they made a mistake. they tried it again. and no one else knew what i had prayed, because i hadn't told anyone else because it was always, find brooke, help us to find brooke. i guess that was a selfish prayer, to help whoever had done this make a mistake and i felt like, they made a mistake.


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